Startup life is the equivalent to the zombie apocalypse of the business world. It’s dog-eat-dog and you’ve got to be a lot of things to survive. It’s not for the faint of heart, the easily offended or the uninspired. You get the idea. Let’s go through Startup essentials 101, shall we?
S - Support
T - Timing
A - Authentic
R - Relentless, Resilient
T - Thorough
U - Unique
P - Passionate
S - Support. I know, this isn’t the most exciting way to begin and to be honest, I was disappointed to start with this one. It would have been better suited for a little later on but alas, here it is, and I by no means wish to diminish the weight of its message. You’ve GOT to have a solid support system to start a business. It’s one thing to have a great idea and well thought out plan but you’ll need lots of help along the way. And support comes in many forms. You’ll need an Advisory Board of sorts, no matter how small you plan to start out. You’ll need to connect with the right people who can guide you with financial, legal, organizational and let’s be honest - emotional support. Talk to people who have walked this road before you and listen to what they have to share. Learn from the mistakes of others so that you may avoid them yourself and please, make sure you have someone there to dust you off. You WILL fall a time or two....
T - Timing. Your idea must be timely. You don’t want to spend all your time, energy and money coming up with your mastermind plan only to find out it’s been done or society just isn’t ready for it (or there’s no need, desire, the list goes on). Consider your idea from all angles; is it relevant? Is it needed? If you were your target market, would you buy this product or service?
A - Authentic. One thing I’ve learned over the years in this challenging endeavor is that you must stay true to yourself. That sounds fairly effortless in theory but as you get immersed in your project, do market research, check out the competition, get advice from friends, family, investors, interested third parties, your neighbor...you get the idea, it gets harder to stick with what you set out to do and in the way you set out to do it. It’s ok to adjust, in fact, it’s recommended, but if you’ve got a great idea/invention/product/service/offering, believe in that and in your ability to execute. Now, more than ever, people see through marketing ploys and sales tactics and in the end, they’re buying you. Believe in what you’re doing and let that show through. Don’t get caught up in big words and flashy signs. People don’t want to be sold. Show them your Why.
R - Relentless. And Resilient. Can I choose two R’s for this blog? Both of these are so important. First of all, you have to be relentless. So many people are going to tell you why you can’t or shouldn’t do this. If you believe, you’ve got to be relentless. Keep on your path and working toward your goal. The right people, things (and money!) will come along. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! And be resilient. You WILL get knocked down, I promise. Remember, this isn’t for the faint of heart but it CAN be done. Get back up, dust yourself off and try again. Now understand, the reason you got derailed may be valid so be willing to adjust and move forward. The important thing is to move forward. Keep on keepin’ on. Ok, so R is the letter where we’ll use all the cliches.
T - Thorough. Be thorough. I’m not kidding. So many people will review your plan, ask questions and make you think of things you never thought of. Most of these people are trying to be helpful so listen, process and make the necessary adjustments or additions. Many entrepreneurs have revolutionary ideas and think that’s enough. Investors, potential partners, future clients; they all want to know that you’ve thought this through; especially if they’re contributing in some way. They want to know that you have a plan (A, B and C), know what it will cost, where you’ll do it, who your market is, what you’ll need for resources - both financial and people - the list goes on. I cannot stress enough the value of a good Business Plan (discussed at length in another blog). It will help you map out your idea, consider the who, what, why, where and when and it will SAVE you, time and time again. Business. Plan. You cannot succeed without one. I’ll step off my soapbox now.
Unique - Be unique. You, your idea, your execution, all of it. Technology is a wonderful thing but because of it, we’re inundated with people claiming to have the next big thing. You can do something that’s already being done IF you do it better. If you’re different, you’re more likely to be noticed. We’re not in elementary school, please don’t try to do what everyone else is doing.
P - Passionate. This is more important than you know. Be passionate about what you’re doing. Not only your product or service but more importantly, your Why. Once again, investors, partners, clients, interested third parties and nosy neighbors alike will want to know not only WHAT you’re doing buy WHY. Passion shows through. It’s palpable and energizes people. Your passion is what will make them believe you can execute. Not only believe but want to see you succeed. Passion is a rarity. Don’t get so bogged down in the HOW that you lose your WHY. Never lose your Why.
It looks like I’m out of letters so I’ll end here. There are many more considerations to discuss but I feel like this list of essentials is a pretty good start. I’m excited for you! Now go out and show them that Why! Be a Startup Survivor! I’ll get you a t-shirt.